County Refuses to Discuss 911 Center Payment with City

HAGERSTOWN – Despite repeated efforts by the Mayor and City Administrator asking the County Administrator and the Board of Washington County Commissioners to do nothing more than come to the table to discuss the 911 Center payment the City withheld last year there has been no movement on the County’s side to agree, or on a number of occasions, even reply.

The latest attempt by the City came last week when Mayor Emily Keller sent a letter to Commissioners’ President Jeff Cline and the rest of the commissioners requesting that the two sides enter into mediation in order to discuss and resolve the issue.  In her request, it was noted that the disputed payment would be escrowed with an agent of the parties’ joint selection and held until a mediated agreement was reached.  On Tuesday, April 20 that request was denied in an email from Cline.

During a joint City Council-Board of County Commissioners meeting in August of 2019 there was a brief back-and-forth involving the payment that ended with both sides agreeing to revisit it in the future.  After 10 months of no follow-up discussion, the City Council voted unanimously last June not to make the payment for 2019 until there was.

In the City’s subsequent overtures to get the County to talk, the City has made it clear that the $405,630 payment will be made once that sit-down takes place—regardless of the outcome.  The County has countered by sending a letter to the City spelling out an ultimatum whereby the City either makes the payment (with interest) within 30 days and signs an agreement to make the payment from now on or takes back its own police dispatch.

The City’s position is two-fold.  First and foremost is ensuring optimal emergency response services to the public, which includes maintaining communication interoperability between City and County operations.  Second, is protecting City taxpayers against being double and even triple taxed for services they already foot the bill for when—as Washington County residents too—they pay their County tax bill.  Thus, tax differential and fair level funding are also part of the discussion the City of Hagerstown is seeking to have with the County.  The City will present more information on those two issues in the coming weeks.